World-Changing Midwives

Midwives are world-changers.
Shiphrah and Puah feared God more than Pharaoh and saved Israelite babies.
Midwives in Foreign Country delivering royal babies paved the way for expat church freedom today.
My own midwives supported me not only in birth, but even more in my transition to motherhood: walking with me through fears, PPD, and breastfeeding. They did more than just deliver babies. They ensured a good start on the journey of motherhood, one of the most formative things I have ever done.

Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum have the potential to shape a mother, positively or negatively, depending not on how easy her path is, but the kind of support she receives. A birth provider that listens, educates, and supports makes all the difference, whether midwife or obstetrician. Their manner and attitude can build up or tear down a mother as she goes through a season of intense change and emotion. Not only is a midwife “with woman” in labor, but she is an influence in forming the mother. The way we start can determine whether we view motherhood as a delight or a drag.

The midwives mentioned above are all positive examples. But some of my friends have experienced the opposite in their personal lives. And just as Shiphrah, Puah, and the midwives in Foreign Country have shaped cultures, a midwife also shaped American culture.
We think of midwives as promoting a culture of life; this one did the opposite. Her name: Margaret Sanger.

Her response to questions of suffering women was not to walk with them through pain to redeem it. She did not help them grow into more mature people through difficulty. Instead, she decided to limit the pain and toil of childbearing unless the child was planned for and fully “wanted.” She promoted birth control and abortion, destroying health and lives rather than supporting them.

But Margaret Sanger didn’t have the full picture.
Romans 5:3-5 says,”…we exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance, and perseverance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

We don’t celebrate pain or call it good. We should take legitimate measures to lessen it. But without adversity, we would not grow. Our character would be weak. Our hope would waver. We would not truly know or prove the worth of God if we were not tested by temptation or pushed to Him in trial.

This is true in the spiritual realm for believers, but also in the shaping of a mother. With the right support team – midwives, nurses, doctors, family, friends, church – the pain and toil of birth, pregnancy, and postpartum can be not just something to get through, but something that can facilitate growth and form a mother who will in turn nurture her children in love.

For more on a biblical view of pain in childbearing, read “Holy Labor” by Aubry Smith.

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2018: June

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I’ll try not to overload you with peonies.

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But that’s really hard!

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Last year we did a hike through the woods that opened out onto a little cove. We took of our shoes and splashed in the water a bit, then S took off running up the hill barefoot and through the fields of tall, dry grass. I didn’t have a camera with me but it became a treasured memory of last summer. I wanted to try to recreate the moment this year, so we did the same hike and I told S to “frolic.”

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I love ciabatta and after watching them make it in the Great British Baking Show I really wanted to try, and found a sourdough recipe that turned out beautifully!

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My pizza stuck to the pan we use as a peel and all the toppings slid down.

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Father’s Day brunch. I overproofed my challah and braiding dough was harder than I anticipated, but it still tasted yummy.

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Meet Trish the Fish. Ezra and S brought her home from a Father Daughter dance. She was much loved but only lived a week. Thankfully the girls handled her death pretty well.

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Ellie is learning self-control. She loves picking peapods and baby apples, and if she’s outside all she can think about is how much she longs to pick them.

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2.5 years ago I realized that with more or less 15 minutes to practice 3 times a week, 30 minute concertos were no longer a good idea. So I decided to tackle all 48 Ferling Etudes, expecting it to take a year or two… it took a bit longer but I finished them mid-June.

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First kombucha slushies of the summer

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Ezra’s birthday breakfast

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BIRTHDAY CAKE (more coming in its own post later)

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Big sister had braids, so she had to, too.

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Leaving a clean house when we go on a trip is worth the extra work beforehand. Coming home to a clean house is wonderful.

memorization// finishing up “O For a Heart to Praise my God” and reviewing things I memorized a long time ago.

favorite recipes// vegan vanilla custard // Alaskan Salmon Pie // honey miso dressing // sourdough puff pancake // sourdough ciabatta // no-cook pizza sauce // sourdough challah // lentil sloppy joes // easy overnight dark rye (we did this sourdough, but I didn’t like the sourdough tang with cocoa) // apple pie breakfast cookies are always a favorite // sauteed chard with lemon and garlic //

best of online// art of biblical poetry (Bible Project) // I am afraid of death // kombucha: myths vs truths // how to analyze research // digestive enzymes and naturally supporting digestion // writing advice // becoming a stay-at-home mom was a risk I don’t regret // hope for when diastasis recti won’t close // welcoming a child with downs syndrome // I need a woman who can mulch // concerns about Jesus Calling //

we LOVED watching Little Women on PBS. And I love this song now (more about it here). And now I’m reading Little Women again, but it’s a very different view to watch/read because now I’m in the Marmee role not Jo. In the new series, really the only critique I have is that they took out Pilgrim’s Progress, which is pretty big in the book, and makes the whole thing less Christian (though it does mention God more than the older one!), but in reading the book it is fairly moralistic so not much was really lost. S and I have just finished watching the older Little Women, though, and while Amy gives Laurie a better lecture than in the new one, overall I like the  new one better and think it sticks closer to the book.

reading of late// Father Brown’s Innocence (Chesterton) // Gospel Treason (Bigney) // Little Women (Alcott) // Delighting in the Trinity (Reeves) // Practicing Affirmation (Crabtree) //

thinking about// outward focus: away from self, to Him and out of overflow of His love, to others // planning my day to apply my morning devotions, acting out of love not obligation or routine // insomnia: His power in weakness // how to keep compassion for Syria and the world without being overwhelmed/numb // dealing with emotions by acknowledging, assessing, and then altering if needed // Colossians: keep seeking the things above, where Christ is //

what brings joy// toddlers frolicking in tall grass // cool summer breezes // creating in the kitchen // kombucha slushies // Colossians

The Munchkins// Ellie loves peapods and peanut butter, and is always saying “I come wis you.” She wants to do and say everything we do and say! S is almost certainly not a morning person, but we occasionally have actual conversations now.

Stewarding the Earth

Go plastic-free.
Buy local.
Organic is best.
All your clothes should be fair trade.
These and many other messages bombard us, especially in the natural health blogosphere. There are some fantastic resources (see my sidebar for some of my favorites), but it can be too much. Sometimes we need to re-focus.

When you feel guilty when your husband mentions paper plates or read the new dirty dozen. When you how quickly the trash fills stresses you out. When you cringe buying food that isn’t ideally packaged.

These are signs to me that I’ve lost perspective. That in trying to care for the earth I’ve become a slave not a steward. That I’m listening more to the voices advocating saving the environment than I am to the One that says I’m forgiven.

We are the rulers of the earth, not its subjects. We do need to care for the earth and not be wasteful. But as believers, there are other things saving the earth.

1. Relationships
We shouldn’t be militant about our choices to the point where we divide with others or others divide with us because of them. We are not saved by how we care for the earth. If someone is completely wasteful, there very rarely might be a time to discuss change with them. But for the most part, if there is conflict because you disagree about how to steward the earth, you might need to re-check your priorities.

We also have to be careful not to let the time or money consumed by “going green” put stress on relationships. The earth is not our only limited resource. Time and money are not boundless either. There may be times to choose a “less green” option in order to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your family. You may also choose to forgo organic and use the extra to support eternal investments.

The earth will one day pass away, no matter how well we care for it. The souls of those in our communities will last forever. Our food dollars should reflect this.

  1. Life
    Because people have eternal souls, they are worth more than the earth. Thus, our priority needs to be on life more than earth.
    This may mean buying ethical coffee, chocolate, or clothing so you aren’t supporting unsafe work environments. But it may also mean purchasing cheaper clothes so that sweatshop laborers have work and don’t have to turn to prostitution or leave their families in order to survive. Or it may mean shopping second hand and using the difference to support organizations working for change in those areas, like International Justice Mission.
    It also means that the pro-life cause needs to weigh heavier on our political agendas than climate change.*

Another component of life is our personal health.
We need to watch what we put into and onto our bodies. Often what’s best for our bodies is also best for the environment and animals. Some people see a big difference when they eat organic and non-GMO. I don’t. But when I can buy organic, I do. I think there is long-term benefit to avoiding pesticides. Hormones and antibiotics in meat and dairy production is a bigger deal to me. Plastics can leach hormone disruptors, so we avoid it.
But more important than all of those is eating a diet** free of processed sugars and flours and focusing on veggies and whole foods. And eating what feels right to your body. I feel sick on a high-fat diet. I need breaks from meat. Nuts and nut flours wreak havoc on my digestion, but I do just fine with wheat.
Eat to fuel your body.

*Natural disasters and changing weather patterns do affect people’s lives, as does our response to them. But abortion is a much worse problem.
**not dieting but just how you eat

Health goes beyond what we put into our mouths. I’ve mentioned stress already regarding relationships. But stress will also affect your health. You may need to change your standards if you’re stressed about budget or running short on time. Maybe you’re moving, just had a baby, your husband lost his job, or with little kids you don’t have time any more to make your own yogurt, bread, and broth, and buying it costs more, so you can’t buy organic milk anymore.
Conventionally grown and raised food might hurt your body in the long run, but stress definitely will, and it won’t take long.

While stewarding the earth is important, I believe that biblically our priority should be preserving life and community. Our buying power should reflect this.

With all that in mind, here are a few tips for reducing waste and/or plastic:
– only have one car
– cloth diaper
– compost
– pack your own travel food
– Buy second-hand! Not only does this solve the fair-trade issue, but it reduces waste and saves you money. But it can be hit or miss, even at places like swap.com and thredup.com.
– This goes for books, too – we love abebooks, book depository, and alibris.
– Reuse ziploc bags and plastic cartons – with caution. If they are breaking down, I throw them out. But for freezing chicken bones until I have enough for stock, whole loaves of bread, cooled beans, etc. I use them multiple times.
– I am moving towards freezing beans in Mason jars. But I’ve had liquids burst jars so am cautious.
– Often plastic-free options cost more upfront, but they last longer, especially with kids.
– There are so many things you can do; it’s overwhelming. Here we can get local chicken, eggs, beef, veggies – but last year chose to do one thing all the way and got our eggs from a farm down the road from church. So look at your budget and time and choose one or two things if you can or want to… and don’t worry about the rest. Freezing without plastic and buying things pre-packaged (ie, yogurt, sour cream) are things I want to think more about… but not raise my stress levels about! I’m interested in these.

Stuff we love:
– Plastic-free kids:  They use regular plates and silverware — silicone lids **– 10 oz stainless steel cupsshort stainless steel straws u conserve containers (I found these second hand for $1 a set!) – klean canteen water bottle or sippy cuppouches
snapware for Ezra’s lunches – not plastic-free, but reusable and mostly glass. For sandwiches we use homemade beeswrap.
– we also use beeswrap and silicone lids in place of plastic wrap.
– travel mugs. Neither are plastic free, but mine is s’ip by s’well, and there is very little plastic.
– Reusable produce, bulk bags, and grocery bags. These make my life so much easier as I don’t have to go searching around the store for where the bags are located and I don’t have trouble opening them.
– wood or bamboo cutting boards

**some info on silicone… better than most plastics but still not ideal

Jesse Tree

Happy halfway to Christmas!

After researching Advent ideas late last Fall, I decided that I wanted our go-to countdown to be the Jesse Tree. We had never done it growing up, but had done similar things, and I had friends who had a beautiful felt tree with felt/velcro ornaments, so I set out to make something similar.23 March Jesse Tree 2

Once we narrowed down what we wanted our 25 things to be, it was a really fun project. I loved how small and portable it was, and how rewarding and easy to work with felt is (no hemming!). I gave myself a rule that I couldn’t buy anything for them since we had plenty of ribbon and felt from other projects.23 March Jesse Tree 3

Making them myself meant that we could choose exactly what we wanted to focus on. Different Jesse Tree sets choose different things, some including names of Jesus, others focusing more on tracing Jesus from Genesis to His birth or beyond. When I saw some incorporating various major and minor prophets, I knew I wanted to do that. So we have:
1. Creation
2. Fall
3. Flood
4. Babel
5. God’s promise to Abraham (stars)
6. Isaac (the ram)
7. the Lion of Judah
8. Moses (the burning bush)
9. Passover
10. The 10 Commandments23 March Jesse Tree 4

11. Joshua/Jericho/Entering the Promised Land
12. Ruth (sheaves of wheat)
13. King David
14. Solomon
15. Isaiah (seraph)
16. Jeremiah (The Weeping Prophet)
17. Nehemiah (wall)
18. Elizabeth (the baby in my womb leapt for joy)
20. Mary (sword will piece your heart)
21. John the Baptist (unworthy to untie His sandals)

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21. Joseph (hammer)
22. Manger
23. shepherds
24. Magi
25. Cross

I’m sure over the years we’ll end up with a more set reading plan for this, and transition to reading direct scripture, but we’ll probably read mostly out of The Big Picture Bible Storybook, DK Illustrated Family Bible, and Jesus Storybook Bible for now, with a few words of explanation to the girls of how it connects to Christmas. I’m really looking forward to using them with S this year (Ellie too, but she won’t really get much of it yet!).

Inspiration:
http://handmadebymegk.blogspot.com/2012/11/advent-calendar-revisited.html
http://ofthehearth.com/diy-jesse-tree-ornaments/
http://www.dosmallthingswithlove.com/2014/12/31-jesse-tree-ornaments-patterns.html
http://images.rca.org/docs/discipleship/jessepatterns.pdf
http://littlebookbigstory.com/to-make-or-to-buy-a-quick-guide-to-jesse-tree-ornaments/

PS – for more Advent themed art, look up The Consolation of Eve and Donne’s La Corona.

30 Things About Ezra


In honor of Father’s Day and Ezra’s 30th birthday this month, here are 28 things I wanted to share about him and one thing from each girl (not in any particular order):

1. will eat almost anything you put in front of him (excepting pickles, canned tuna, and olives).
2. But prefers variety, flavor, and adventure in his food.
3. And is very good cook.
4. understands the nuances of grey areas and is balanced in his views.
5. poet
6. discerning, especially reading between the lines and understanding where people are coming from.
7. sees the big picture
8. gardener
9. seafarer
10. longsuffering
11. serious about fighting sin and pursuing holiness in his life and in helping me do so.
12. informed by scripture, not culture or social media.
13. servant (up there #3 about cooking? Most of the time he spends in the kitchen is actually doing the dishes for the messes I make and he never complains).
14. wise counselor (see #4, 6, 12!)
15. not easily provoked (I’ve never heard him come the slightest bit close to losing his temper)
16. content
17. lifter of loads
18. “stories” – Ellie (meaning she likes it when he reads to her)
19. resourceful
20. optimistic
21. has a massive sweet tooth… but tries to reign it in for me. 🙂
22. thorough
23. “Gives a great twists in the air.” – S
24. creative with art and word, on paper and verbal storytelling (mostly bedtime stories!)
25. takes sleep seriously
26. looking to invest eternally more than in temporal things
27. but balances frugality with quality
28. discontent with stagnant relationships
29. patient teacher
30. dependent on God in prayer & worship

We love you, Ezra, and are so thankful to have you as father/husband/friend and are looking forward to walking this next season of life with you wherever God leads us!

2018: May

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I made some bows for the girls out of lace my great aunt had given me that was from her mom (or earlier).

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I also made S a dress… that she then refused to wear because “it’s not the right color.” (purple)

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Ellie doing what she sees me do with S – read to her while she goes potty!

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We found out we have a lilac tree.

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And our irises bloomed this year. I’m really not sure why some things didn’t bloom last year but didn’t have a problem this year.

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Hammocks are incredibly good for your health because they make rest so enticing.

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One store had rhubarb and so I planned to have it in a few dishes the next week… and then nowhere had rhubarb. I finally found some!
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Crumpets and baby greens. I commented that they were “high and holey” so we joked that we should open a crumpet shop called “The Reformed Crumpet” with pictures of famous British theologians on the wall.

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Ezra made Mothers’ Day lunch.

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Our peonies are blooming very slowly.

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Hunting for “snakes,” as Ellie calls earthworms.

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We went camping on Orcas Island.
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It was much more pleasant than our camping trip last year, when we had pouring rain and Ellie was always trying to eat dirt and pine needles. It was still rather cold, but absolutely gorgeous and we had lots of enjoyable hikes and hammock time. We also rented a rowboat one day.

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It wasn’t without adventure, though… I pulled the sourdough pancake batter out of the cooler to sit out overnight and forgot to put it in the car. I knew not to leave food out if there were bears, but that wasn’t a concern where we were. But the squirrels got it, dragged it a few yards away, opened it, and left it.

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The goslings were a hit with the girls.

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Enjoying our lake view campsite.

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memorization// Revelation 7:14b-17. we read this as a responsive reading at church and it brought so much comfort and was so vivid to me. I love how it brings out various suffering and persecution and shows how those losses and pains will be filled by God in the end.

favorite recipes// cheesecake snacks // cheese taco shells // cookie dough pops // chickpea muffins // THE BEST homemade peanut butter cups // crockpot banana bread oatmeal // curried cauliflower, lentil, grape salad // chocolate mint popsicles // sourdough skillet “bisquick” pie // sourdough crumpets // chickpea chocolate chip cookies // chile relleno en nogada // lemon rhubarb chicken bake // late spring salad (used monterey jack cubes) // blueberry sourdough scones // cinnamon cardamom knots // apple cheddar mac //

best of online//  can we just be friends? (a look at the Billy Graham rule) // are you addicted to your phone? // sermon series on Lamentations // the glory in the frustration of parenting (home isn’t for my comfort but their formation!) // just saying “the gospel is enough” is not enough // “Theistic evolution” // thoughts on charity that echo When Helping Hurts// easy summer toddler dress // tea bag crafting // a great book list! // love this music (with some cautions) // heads up about type 1 diabetes // engaging God’s word with scant time and energy // 10 Things Sexual Assault Victims Want you to Know // how to talk to your kids about mass shootings // a guide to self-recording music practice and more here // a voice for the voiceless // the copycat problem // the call to counsel (a friend’s new blog) // how the csection went from last resort to overused // Thomas Sowell on social justice // maybe women are some of the worst offenders // Japanese train station psychology // connecting obedience with joy (love the 5-words thing and having them repeat it!) // Moms, Embrace Your Need // Truth in Love podcast on PPD // The Fear of Motherhood // What is my Calling? // A Hidden Epidemic God Hates //

reading of late// Philippians // Christ Formed in You (Hedges) // On Writing Well (Zinsser) // A Chance to Die (Elliot) // The Vanderbeekers of 141st St //
Skimmed: Hello Mornings (Lee) // The Measure of Success (McCulley) // Radical Womanhood (McCulley)

thinking about// exhausted by recent media I have encountered expecting it to be encouraging and instead finding myself having to sort through the good and bad. But a classmate shared something about a variety of false gospels, and it encouraged me that my instincts were correct, that discernment is a big deal, and it is worth it to wrestle through differing viewpoints // I AM full in Him, but I need to draw from that fullness not my own power // will this help me love God more? // do not tame bad habits, mortify them //

what brings joy// blooming flowers // hammocks // sunshine // dough //

The Munchkins// Ellie babbles a lot and more of her jabber is becoming coherent. The past few days she has even said full sentences that weren’t copied or memorized. She loved how close the little birds came while we were camping and would call for them to come to her.  “Hi cheep cheep! I touch you cheep cheep! Come, come!” And whenever she saw a dog she said, “I pet!” She did not love the ferry ride out, though.
S loved the boat rides, and wanted to spend her time in the hammock, “fishing,” or reading in the tent while we were camping.

 

Review: Hymns of Grace

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When I heard about Grace to You/Master’s Seminary putting out a hymnal a few years ago, I was so excited. We had picked a hymnal based on the hymns it had in it, but with modernizations and verses left out, we weren’t really happy with it, and with a growing number of modern hymns we liked to sing, weren’t sure how to incorporate those into our regular home worship. There also seemed like there were so many hymns that we didn’t know or didn’t agree with theologically in most hymnals.

We still have four different hymnals + a Psalter in our house, but Hymns of Grace is our go-to (followed by Trinity), for a musically and theologically sound hymnal.

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The Look
Hymns of Grace is a beautifully bound book, with gold text. It feels solid and quality, and so far they’ve held up well. It is, however, quite large for only having 400-some hymns as opposed to the Celebration Hymnal’s 800+. The paper is high quality and the print is larger, both of which seem to be a fair exchange given that there were so many hymns in the Celebration Hymnal we didn’t know at all. These are much easier to share, and aren’t too big to hold on your own.

The Music
This is where my only real critique of the hymnal is. There is no metrical index or list of tunes. Each hymn has a composer and author listed at the bottom, but there is no quick way to tell the meter or tune, to find an alternate tune or know from the tune name that you do know the melody for a hymn you don’t know the words to, etc. They probably figured it was a distraction to most people, but as a musician it really bugs me.
It does include final verse arrangements/transpositions on some hymns. It does not have chords for any of the hymns like Trinity occasionally does.

The Hymns
No hymnal is going to have every hymn you want it to unless you print it yourself. But we found that Hymns of Grace did have most of the ones we really cared about. We were still disappointed with “missing verses” in Be Still, my Soul (also in Eb instead of F), How Firm a Foundation, Let All Mortal Flesh, and a few others (it DOES have the 4th verse to Come Thou Fount! …but makes What Child is This have a refrain). But overall, the selection of hymns and verses is very good. A few are modernized, but it is generally just getting rid of Thee/Thou and not changing other words.

Hymns of Grace does not have (a number of these are not in Trinity either):
All That Thrills My Soul
Benediction (Csehy)
Eternal Father (or most patriotic ones)
Hiding Place
He Hideth My Soul
Change My Heart O God
I Love You Lord
Jesus I Come
Let All Things Now Living
Come ye Disconsolate
Nearer My God to Thee
Softly & Tenderly
Redeemed
Saved
Surely Goodness
Jesus Priceless Treasure
Not What My Hands Have Done
Children of the Heavenly Father
No parts on Grace Greater than All Our Sin

But instead you get many of the Getty’s  hymns, two of R.C. Sproul’s, In Christ Alone, Behold Our God, Before the Throne, and many other modern hymns/classics.